As technology becomes more prevalent in our lives, so does global cybercrime. Remote work, artificial intelligence, computers in cars are opportunities for thieves to access your personal information. Criminals constantly adjust their tactics so you need to stay informed and alert to the latest scams: knowledge gives you power to win the cybertheft war! In this article 5 steps to protect your identity.
What are the latest scams?
Every year, thieves find new ways to attack us. They pick both on individuals and businesses. We all know about the traditional attacks – such as lifting your social security number (SSN) from sensitive documents or stealing your mail. Below the latest and more sophisticated trends in stealing identity:
- Phishing emails – stating your account has been locked, your bank account is frozen or your package has been lost.
- Vishing phone calls – pretending to be a billing collector or asking you to respond “yes” or “no” to questions – so they can record your voice and mimic your identity later.
- Smishing texts – asking you to click on a link.
5 Steps to Protect Your Identity
Cyber criminals get increasingly creative with tactics to steal your personal information. Below 5 steps to stay ahead of them:
STEP #1: PROTECT YOUR SSN
- Shred documents with your SSN – Use at least a micro-cross-cut shredder to discard documents that contain sensitive information
- Do not disclose your SSN over the phone – instead request an alternate identification such as a security questions or a pin.
- Check your SSN account – log in to your SSN account yearly to identify any fraudulent activity: http://socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/
STEP #2: PROTECT YOUR DEVICES
In today’s age, our personal valuables are stored on digital devices rather than in a bank safe – so protect your devices with these steps:
- Update your antivirus regularly – do not use a FREE antivirus – instead install a professional antivirus – on all your devices (including your phone!) – that will automatically update and recognize the latest scams and block them. If you are using Apple products, install the latest IOS versions.
- Use multi-factor authentication– such as requesting a one-time code, a face ID recognition, a touch ID recognition or a third party authenticator app.
- “Clean” your devices regularly – by deleting old apps and old programs you no longer use.
- Enable alerts on your devices – such as activating emails or texts alerts when your account is logged into.
STEP #3: PROTECT YOUR DIGITAL INFORMATION
To protect your online identity, you must treat your personal information like gold, and not give it away freely!
- Do not overshare on your online social accounts – do not accept a social media “friend request” from someone you do not know and remove your profile from old sites you no longer use – as your profiles on these sites will likely hold the answers to all your security questions and personal profile information.
- Do not password–share – with your family or friends
- Do not use Public WIFI – do not check any sensitive data on public WIFI – instead create a hotspot with your phone
- Secure your Home WIFI – with a unique password of at least 8 characters
- Do not respond to phishing emails, vishing calls or smishing texts (see above) –instead block the sender from your contacts.
- Use encrypted services – such as encrypted email providers, encrypted online storage
STEP #4: PROTECT YOUR TAX INFORMATION
Every year, the tax return you file holds your most sensitive information – such as your SSN, your address, your date of birth and your bank information. To protect your tax information, do the following:
- Check the activity on your Online IRS account = If you have not done so, set up with the IRS your online account – to know more: https://kbfinancials.biz/managing-your-irs-account-online/
- Obtain your ID protection PIN – to prevent a criminal from filing a fraudulent tax return with your SSN. The PIN is assigned and renewed yearly by the IRS – https://www.irs.gov/identity-theft-fraud-scams/get-an-identity-protection-pin
- Check the credentials of your tax preparer – before selecting a professional to prepare your tax return, check their registration with the IRS (Enrolled agents) or with their state (Attorney, CPA).
STEP #5: PROTECT YOUR FINANCIAL INFORMATION
You are only as strong as your weakest link! Make sure that the financial institutions you do business with also take steps to combat cybercrime.
- Reconcile your bank and credit card statements monthly – to identify quickly any fraudulent charge and get a refund from your bank.
- Update your information with your banks – with your latest email and phone number
- Switch to paperless statements – opt to receive all communications through your bank’s secure portal.
- Check your credit report yearly– you can obtain a FREE credit report from the 3 credit agencies (Equifax, Experian and Transunion) at: www.annualcreditreport.com
What are the signs that you may be victim of ID theft?
Most identity theft victims do not realize that they are a victim until the theft has negatively impacted their lives. The following are signs that you are being stalked by crooks:
- Noticing credit card charges on your statement that you do not recognize
- Receiving credit cards statements that you did not apply for
- Receiving letters from debt collectors about loan or debt that you do not owe
- Receiving a communication from the IRS that there is an issue with your tax refund
What to do when your identity has been stolen?
- File a police report and get a copy of the report and case number.
- Report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General Tax administration – https://www.tigta.gov/reportcrime-misconduct
- File a complaint with the Federal trade commission – https://www.identitytheft.gov/
- Contact the social security administration- https://www.ssa.gov/fraud/
- Contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – https://www.irs.gov/identity-theft-central
- Contact the credit agencies – Equifax, Experian, TransUnion
- Contact your financial institutions – such as your banks and credit card companies
As always, bear in mind the date of this article as tax laws change over time
For assistance with your international tax needs, please contact Karine Bauer, EA, JD – HERE.
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Updated Friday October 13th, 2023